The treatment of postnatal depression with exercise: a randomised controlled trial, qualitative study and systematic review

Pritchett, Ruth Victoria (2016). The treatment of postnatal depression with exercise: a randomised controlled trial, qualitative study and systematic review. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis investigated the effectiveness of exercise in the treatment of postnatal depression (PND). PND is highly prevalent, affecting mothers, families and child development. Exercise is currently recommended to mothers with PND, potentially offering fewer side effects than antidepressants and wider accessibility than psychological treatments.

This thesis reported three studies. A randomised controlled trial (RCT) investigated the effectiveness of an exercise counselling intervention, in addition to usual care, in treating PND. This intervention provided a moderate, non-significant decrease in depression compared to usual care alone.

A qualitative study found that exercise was viewed as acceptable and often preferable to antidepressants in the treatment of PND. A range of mechanisms via which exercise produced psychosocial benefits were proposed, including improving self-confidence and supporting personal identity after childbirth.

A systematic review with meta-analysis of RCTs of exercise interventions for PND concluded that exercise can be effective in reducing depression in general and depressed postnatal populations. Preliminary findings suggested the importance of social support within such interventions.

Exercise is likely to be effective in the treatment of PND and should therefore be recommended to mothers. However, further research investigating the relative effectiveness of different intervention designs would be valuable.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Medical & Dental Sciences
School or Department: School of Health and Population Sciences
Funders: National Institute for Health Research
Subjects: R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics


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